How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

For many travelers, a great travel backpack is the definition of versatility. Nothing is more portable or convenient to haul your gear around the world in than a travel backpack. The best ones find the sweet spot between capacity, durability, and convenience features so that you can travel confidently.

Use this guide to narrow down your choice and make sure you have the right travel backpack for you and your trip.

Why You Should Travel With a Travel Backpack

To maximize portability while traveling, nothing tops a travel backpack. Even with so many different style bags and ways to haul your gear, seasoned travelers keep coming back to the tried and true travel backpack.

With a backpack your gear is always secured to your back and your hands are free. This flexibility when you’re moving through a crowded train station or navigating streets in a new city can be beneficial in multiple ways. Your hands are free to use your phone, pay for something, or grab a snack. And you’re able to do all of these things without setting your bag down which can get it dirty, cause you to forget it on a street corner, or quickly turn into an opportunity for theft.

Portability is where a travel backpack really shines, and why so many travelers that have switched over to backpacks as their primary bag aren't looking back. Stairs, cobblestone streets, and rough terrain like we encountered when we spent 7 Months Traveling through Southeast Asia won’t slow your progress. Plus, modern travel backpacks can offer comparable packable space when compared to a roller bag. Particularly if your trip includes more than 1 stop, a backpack is going to be easier to haul around than a suitcase.

A travel backpack also forces you to pack smart. Extra consideration will go into each item knowing you’ll be hauling it on your back. From our experience, the amount of gear packed naturally fills the packable space, and a travel backpack is typically smaller than a suitcase or luggage so the temptation to overpack will be reduced.

From daypack backpacks, to weekender packs, and other suitcase alternatives, the right travel backpack will keep you organized, mobile, and moving efficiently.

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack | Travel More | Flashpacker Co

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

There are many factors to consider when selecting your travel backpack. Where and how you will use it is a great place to start but also consider the capacity, material, and special features on the bag.


Where you’re going and what you’re doing can educate which travel backpack is right for you. Off-road trips like a hiking trek through the Sawtooth Mountains will require something durable, lightweight, and possibly waterproof if there’s a risk of rain. Urban travelers headed to one of the 17 best cities in the US to visit can emphasize style and consider built in anti theft features for when you’re cruising through crowded markets or train stations. As you evaluate which backpack is right for you, consider where you’re going and then use the following categories to help narrow it down.


How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack | Flashpacker Blog

Travel backpacks range in size from around 10 liter daypacks to 50+ liter carry-alls. Consider whether you’re simply looking for a personal carry-on or daypack for daily exploring, an overnight or weekender size, or a long term suitcase alternative. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the size variations.

  • 6-15 liters: Daypack backpacks fall perfectly in this range. Room for all the essentials including keys, wallet, phone, and sunglasses with space for the gear you’ll need for a day exploring like a water bottle, snacks, and towel.
  • 16-30 liters: From high capacity daypacks to overnight bags, you can confidently pack an extra set of clothes and toiletries, especially as you get to 20 liters and beyond.
  • 31-50 liters: The sweet spot for the most versatile travel backpack size. 30+ liters will be sufficient for at least a weekend trip and generally a week when you pack smart. Long term travelers who like to travel light can generally travel indefinitely in the 40-50 liter range.
  • 51+ liters: When packing light isn’t an option, you’re carrying business equipment and gear, or you’re moving between climates and have extra clothing, a 50+ liter travel backpack will give you just as much room as a roller bag while still providing the convenience only a backpack can offer.


The material of your travel backpack should be a consideration based on your destination and expected use. Nylon is the go to material for bags and works just about anywhere whether it's a daypack, weekender, or long term carry bag. However, there are many other materials to consider. In some cases you might prioritize a stylish material over a durable one, for example in an urban daypack compared to a large capacity travel backpack that might get checked. Consider where you’re going and how your bag will be used to decide what materials are most important.

Ripstop: Designed for products that get used outdoors, nylon ripstop fabric will provide durability and longevity to your pack. Ripstop is generally weatherproof as well as stain and abrasion resistant meaning it’s fantastic for bags that might be bumped around like one that gets checked on the plane or carried on the trail.

Waterproof: A variety of waterproof travel backpacks are available if you’re heading to a wet climate or want extra protection for the contents. Polyurethane/ nylon materials with reinforced rubber seals will keep water out and your gear dry. If you’re headed out to the water or visiting during the rainy season, a waterproof backpack should be a serious consideration.

Waterproof Backpacks | Travel Backpacks for Hiking, Diving or the Rain Season

Sustainable: The environmental impact is increasingly on travelers' minds and your gear can help minimize your footprint. Several sustainable backpacks are made from 100% recycled materials (for example the Repreve fabric). This material is typically lightweight, breathable, and allows your gear selection to contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.

Leather/ Canvas: For a stylish alternative opt for a leather travel backpack. A range of quality is available including water repellent coated leather, waxed canvas, and high quality leather. Look for reinforced leather accents on canvas bags to know it's solidly built. Both leather and canvas are great options for urban travel.

Special Features

Trolley SleeveWe generally suggest traveling without a rolling suitcase when possible, but on some trips you just need the capacity. In these cases where you need a suitcase and a backpack, a built-in trolley sleeve on your backpack can keep your things compact and together, make traveling through the airport or city streets a snap.

Travel Backpacks with Built-In Trolley Sleeve

Anti Theft: Unfortunately theft can be a factor when traveling, more in some places than others, but still on the minds of most travelers at some point. Look for popular anti-theft features like anti-slash material, RFID blocking panels, security zippers, or built in locks. Locking your travel backpack when it's in use, either on your back or stowed, is always recommended.

Convertible: Who says a backpack has to be worn exclusively on the back? Sometimes the most convenient feature of a travel backpack is the fact that it can be carried in a way other than on your back. The flexibility to convert your carrying style can mean traveling with one less extra bag and more efficient uses in certain situations.

Expandable: Primarily in larger capacity travel backpacks that would be used in place of a suitcase, expandable storage can mean the bag works on longer trips or ones that cross climates and necessitate extra gear. Expansion zippers typically run 3/4s or all the way around the bag adding a couple inches of depth when unzipped.


Choosing the best travel backpack can set the tone for your next trip. Now that you know what to look out for when making your selections, check out our list of the best travel backpacks ranging from small to large capacity and highlighted by best use and key features. You can also review our full curated collection of travel backpacks for more options.

Product Comparison


Capacity (liters)


Key Features


Best For

Sherpani Camden 3 in 1 Tote Bag


Repreve, 100% recycled materials fabric

Convertible; 3 ways to carry, sustainably made.


Flexible carrying options and sustainability minded.

Jack Foster Waxed Canvas & Horween Leather Daypack


Waxed canvas & Horween leather

High quality materials and high end style.


The urban explorer who values style and longevity.

Sherpani Pace Eco Daypack Backpack


Repreve; 100% recycled materials fabric

Sustainably made.


Casual style and sustainability minded.

Chrome Industries Rolltop Packable Daypack


Nylon ripstop

High capacity daypack that packs down to nothing for transport.


Traveling light to your destination, but exploring daily once there.

Ascentials Pro Meta 3 in 1 Business Laptop Backpack


Ballistic nylon

3 ways to carry, business ready, large enough for overnight.


Business traveler or digital nomad.

Pacsafe Vibe Anti Theft Backpack

25 & 28

Anti slash nylon ripstop

Built in anti theft zippers, anti slash materials, RFID protection.

$109.95 - $129.95

The stylish urban traveler concerned with theft.

Overboard Waterproof Backpack

20 & 30

PVC tarpaulin

100% waterproof.

$71.99 - $80.99

The scuba diver, sunset sailor or beach goer.

Caribee X-Trek Daypack Backpack


Nylon ripstop

Hydration ready, padded back panel, and harness system.


Offroad travel, hikes, & treks.

Chrome Industries Summoner 2.0 Travel Backpack


Weatherproof tarp and ripstop liner

Clamshell opening and modal design.


Single bag travel for 2-5 days.

RMU Expandable Travel Backpack

35 (50 when expanded)

TPU coated nylon or canvas

Accordion style expansion, premium materials, 2 ways to carry.


All in one, single bag travel.

Caribee Jet Pack 2 in 1 Travel Backpack

50 + 15

Nylon ripstop

15L detachable daypack, stowable straps to check.


Long term backpacking trips.

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